GENEVA (TIP): At least 850,000 people are expected to cross the Mediterranean seeking refuge in Europe this year and next, the United Nations said on Sept 9, giving estimates that already look conservative. The UN refugee agency UNHCR called for more cohesive asylum policies to deal with the growing numbers. Many are refugees from Syria, driven to make the voyage by intensified fighting there and worsening conditions for refugees in surrounding countries due to funding shortfalls in aid programmes, UNHCR said. “In 2015, UNHCR anticipates that approximately 400,000 new arrivals will seek international protection in Europe via the Mediterranean. In 2016 this number could reach 450,000 or more,” it said in an appeal document.
Spokesman William Spindler said the prediction for this year was close to being fulfilled, with 366,000 having already made the voyage. The total will depend on whether migrants stop attempting the journey as the weather gets colder and the seas more perilous. So far, the numbers do not appear to have slowed down as the colder months approach, with many appearing spurred on by Germany’s announcement that it will ease the rules for Syrians seeking refuge who first reach the European Union through other countries.